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A study that tracked 330 children whose mothers used methamphetamine during pregnancy showed that the drug use caused them to have behavior problems.
The first study to look at methamphetamine's effects on children whose mothers used the drug during pregnancy showed that they have a higher risk of developing behavior problems than other kids, reported the Associated Press. Methamphetamine is a stimulant, and earlier research found "meth babies" to have similarities — smaller size and problems with drowsiness and stress — to "crack babies," whose mothers used another stimulant during pregnancy: crack cocaine.
Methamphetamine attacks the nervous system, causing brain changes that could cause anxiety, mood problems and violent behavior, according to CBS News. The study showed that pregnant women who use meth can pass these behavioral problems on to their children.
According to Linda LaGasse and her colleagues at Brown University, who will publish their study in the April issue of Pediatrics, at ages 3 and 5, children whose mothers exposed them to meth in the womb had greater emotional reactivity and higher levels of anxiety and depression than other kids, reported ABC News. And at age 5 only, exposure was associated with problems like acting out and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms.
"The ability to identify specific behavioral syndromes in children as early as preschool age could lead to the development of preventive intervention programs," wrote LaGasse and her colleagues, according to ABC News. They added that early intervention "may prevent escalation into delinquency and psychopathology."
"These kids are not cracked and broken," LaGasse said to NPR. "But they do have problems that are worthy of note."
Government data shows more than 10 million Americans have used meth, according to the AP. Fewer than 1 percent of pregnant women are users.
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